Do you have a love-hate relationship with your sweet tooth? Do you love taking a big, chocolaty bite of that candy bar you crave after lunch, but you hate those extra few pounds you put on over the course of the year?
If your sugar habit is out of control and you're ready to kick it for good, here's how to go about it in a way that's more likely to result in success rather than relapse.
Take your time. Going cold turkey works for some people, but not most. Instead of quitting your sugar habit altogether, take your time weaning yourself off of the sweet stuff. This is more likely to help you lose your taste for sugar and reduce your cravings. Start out by cutting your sugar in half. Instead of two handfuls of M&Ms, only take one. Instead of two teaspoons of sugar, add one to your coffee. Do this for a week, then reduce it by half again for another week. Your goal should be to either switch to natural or artificial sweeteners or skip the sweetness completely.
Go easy on the extras. It's usually extras and add-ins that take your sugar consumption over the top, like sprinkles on your frozen yogurt, sugar on your cereal or chocolate syrup in your coffee. Instead of relying on your old favorites, turn to new add-ins or go without. Instead of sprinkles on your yogurt, go with granola or fruit. Try berries in your morning cereal instead of a tablespoon of sugar. Rather than chocolate syrup, try getting a coffee made with flavored beans.
Break up with soda. Regular, sweetened soda is one of the worst sugary offenders. Wean yourself off of your dependence by mixing half of your regular soda with half of its diet equivalent for a while. This can ease your transition into the switch to diet soda, which doesn't have the same sugary taste. But research shows that drinking diet sodas isn't healthy and can increase your risk for metabolic syndrome, kidney damage and obesity, as well as damaging your cells and teeth. Instead, try to skip the soda altogether by drinking more water (with lemon or lime, if you prefer) or making your own bubbly beverages. Seltzer water is a great, healthy alternative that you can dress up in a variety of ways. You could try flavored varieties, but it might be tastier to make your own. Add strawberries, melon slices, lemon or lime wedges, raspberries or mint to your seltzer water for a more interesting take.
Give yourself a limit. You don't necessarily have to cut sugar out of your life forever if you're trying to break your habit. But instead of allowing yourself to indulge in whatever you want, give yourself a specific daily quota for the amount of sugar you can have. The World Health Organization recommends a daily sugar intake of less than 10 percent of your daily calories. That's the equivalent of 40 grams if you're on a 1,600-calorie diet. Keep track of your serving sizes or decide to splurge on one thing in particular each day, like sugar in your morning coffee or an ounce of dark chocolate after dinner (some chocolates, in moderation, may be good for your heart).
Buy sugar-free condiments. Condiments like ketchup are loaded with more sugar than you think, but you don't have to let these sneaky foods ruin your commitment. Lots of brands offer sugar-free varieties for people with diabetes or those who are watching their waistlines, so pick these up next time you go to the grocery store. That way, your next burger won't sabotage your efforts. Avoid foods with labels that have ingredients like sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice crystals, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, molasses or malted barley extract. All of these mean that whatever you're looking at has sugar in it.